“You can be a millionaire… and never pay taxes! You say, ‘Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?’ First… get a million dollars.” -Steve Martin
Sometimes when I read about people talking about social media for their business and needing to embrace social media to be successful, it makes me think of that Steve Martin quote. It’s like saying: you want some more surefire, can’t miss business advice? Be successful and hugely profitable. Land big jobs. Acquire a stable of billionaire clients. There. Easy.
The thing that you don’t often hear about is the all-important “how.” This would be like someone asking me back when I was a golf pro, “John, how do I shoot a lower score?” and me responding with, “It’s simple! Just play better!” Yes, it’s true, but it’s not at all helpful.
Resi blogger, Heather Sidorowicz, touched on this a bit last week with her “Reach Your Demographic with Social Media” post. She offered tips like developing a social personality, posting to your site consistently, and talking about completed jobs.
But even so, is that enough to turn your company’s social media platform into a money-generating venture? Because, ultimately, isn’t that our goal? Are regular posts with beautiful pictures and clever, well-written, personality-packed prose enough to transform your followers into purchasers? For the majority of custom installers, I’m afraid the answer is likely no or possibly maybe. And even that will require a lot of time and effort.
You have to kiss a lot of frogs…
As an example, consider this. I’ve written for Sound & Vision magazine for about 14 years now. At its peak, S&V had a monthly circulation of about 300,000. That meant every month there were potentially 300,000 people reading my column with a byline that mentioned me and my company by name and location. And these were 300,000 consumers that were interested in audio and video, literally paying money to read more about it. It was the most highly targeted “advertising” possible. And the business gleaned from all of those potential eyeballs that I touched for all of these years? I think we’ve landed maybe two or three sales.
I participated in a CEDIA panel a few years ago titled, “Social Networking Forum: How to Leverage Popular Social Media Platforms to Grow Your Business.” The three-hour panel had a lot of tips about using social media and the dangers of abusing it, but I’m afraid it didn’t really offer any concrete examples of the ever important “how.” While I’m not sure there is a silver-bullet how, here are five things that could work for monetizing and maximizing your company’s social platform.
Leverage Bigger Accounts
To quote myself from the panel, “The purpose of being [at the CEDIA panel] is a business objective, not to have 1,000 Facebook friends…” Gathering a bunch of followers for the sake of having big numbers is pointless if you can’t actually engage them to do anything. But at the same time, if you don’t have any followers, you might as well be shouting into a black hole (or perhaps tweeting into the wind). One of the most difficult things about being successful on social media is developing an audience of people that actually listens to you. I have more than 1,700 Twitter followers, and I’m often lucky to get a single response if I pose a question.
Besides printing your social media info on business cards and websites and invoices and customer correspondence, I don’t really have a great suggestion for you on this one. For most CI companies, developing a following will likely be a slow process. But, one way to quickly and easily reach more people is by leveraging the power of larger accounts. Why not get Control4 (@control4 21,374 Twitter followers, 12,543 Facebook likes), Crestron (@crestronhq 14,403 followers, 8,595 likes), Sonos (@sonos 51,886 followers, 275,177 likes) to help you reach a much larger audience? If you do an install that features a company’s products, tell them about it and they will often pass that along to their (likely) much broader audience. Companies like OmniMount (@omnimount), Stewart (@stewartfilm), Screen Innovations (@siscreens), Middle Atlantic (@middleatlantic), Draper (@draperinc) and Digital Projection (@dprojection) are all active on social networking and are quick to pass along items. It’s certainly possible that one of their followers may live in your area and be interested in having work done.
An Offer They Can’t Refuse
The most “successful” social media campaigns typically offer something. For example, note the explosive response that Esurance got from its Super Bowl commercial asking people to tweet “#EsuranceSave30” for a chance to win $1.5 million. I entered, and so did 3 million other people. For big companies it can be fairly easy and obvious to find ways to use their social presence for promotion. If you’re Starbucks, for example, you could have a “come try our new not-really-a-large-large flavor” giveaway for friending them on Facebook. Or McDonald’s might offer a free meal upsize if you tweet “Super Size Me was a lie! Eating Big Macs promotes healthy well being! #SuperSizeMyLife” 10 times or something. And if you’ve got literally millions of dollars lying around, you could come up with all kinds of great social media strategies that you can launch during the next Super Bowl. But it’s tougher for small, local companies with very finite budgets like ours to give things away. Even so, could you do this on a smaller scale? Say offering a free in-home evaluation or one-hour service call or merchandise discount in exchange for something like a retweet, follow or like? Consider this an investment in your social branding.
Look at Companies That You Follow
Reverse the roles and put yourself in the consumer position for a second. What attracts you to the companies that you follow and who is doing it well? I think that Residential Systems (@resisys) does a great job of promoting new stories by putting out tweets as new items are posted. I don’t click on them all, but these posts frequently inform me about things I would otherwise miss. Beyond AV, I also happen to love craft beer (shameless plug: I have a new beer review site at sciaccadrinks.blogspot.com) and I follow Stone Brewing (@StoneBrewingCo) and Craft Shack Beer (@craftshackbeer). Both do a great job of talking about new beer arrivals, brewery events, and other news. In our industry, I think Control4 does a terrific job of not only talking about products, but also showcasing installs, dealers, or industry-related items. Both D-BOX (@dboxtech) and Kaleidescape (@kaleidescape) promote cool demo material and movie releases. Further, none of these companies bombard me with info, and they include clickable links to follow up on any story or item of interest.
Interact with and Reward Your Engagers
I do my best to respond to anyone that tweets to me at @SciaccaTweets, and the best brands do the same. Whether it is offering criticism or kudos, social media is increasingly becoming the go-to place to interact and communicate with companies. But beyond simply responding, some companies actually reward their followers. After tweeting about a delicious Upslope Brewing beer I enjoyed while at CEDIA, they started interacting with me, saw my love of beer, and are going to send me some of the beer! But the best example of this I’ve seen is from Velveeta, where their Blacksmith persona interacted with me and then followed up by sending me a gift. The whole ordeal was so awesome I blogged about it here.
If you expect to just start a Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest account and then have the business start rolling in, you are going to be very disappointed. In fact, you probably have a greater chance of successfully field terminating an HDMI cable… in the dark… with no tools. Also, you can be a millionaire and never pay taxes… But, with work it can be done.
Two people that have managed to pull it off are Johnny Mota (@jmota3) and Matt Scott (@mattdscott). Mota from California’s Vsys Automation commented, “Having a bigger network of people has allowed me to receive many jobs/projects because of my active engagement with my community, and because they know of me and what I do, work has been sent my way.”
Scott, of Canada’s Omega Audio/Video, added, “Yes, I have sold work off Twitter, but it’s not something that is easily accomplished and it takes a lot of work. I didn’t just send out a tweet, ‘Hey we’ve got speakers’ and get a bunch of emails full of orders. What I did to achieve some of these jobs was based on engagement—actively searching out these opportunities. One of the ways I do this is by following and engaging with my local community’s hashtag, #LndOnt (London, Ontario). I noticed one guy talking about looking at speakers in town and how he wished there were more options. We started talking and I ended up selling him some speakers for his gaming system. At the very least it should be viewed as a good marketing tool that can raise your awareness among your community.”
If you’ve found a way use social networking to boost your bottom line, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.